Stone Cold is a novel aimed at young adults, and was written by Robert Swindells. The book’s basic plot revolves around the life of 16 year-old ‘Link,’ born in Bradford in 1977. Link’s real name is not specified at any point throughout the course of the book. The book begins with Link’s life in Bradford, with his mother’s new lover Vince moving in to the household (Link’s father had disappeared) and taking a firm, cruel stance towards Link.
The tension in the home begins to make the relationship of the young teen and his mother strained, and eventually, after a particularly heated argument, Link is locked outside of the house by Vince, and starts to sleep rough on the streets of his hometown. After a while, Link becomes increasingly independent, and after the Christmas season, he decides to leave Bradford for London, to find work and start a new life, away from the turbulent place back home. Stone Cold is unusual in terms of books aimed at younger readers, as it has a feature known as a dual narrative.
This means that the story is told from two perspectives, in this case being Link, the main protagonist, and another character known only as ‘Shelter. ’ He is the primary antagonist of the book. Shelter is a military veteran, possibly around the age of 45, and was suspended from his recruitment post at the British Army on what is only described as ‘medical grounds. ’ The more specific reason is of course unknown – adding to his already mysterious tendencies – however it is evident that he has an unstable mental condition, but won’t accept this and feels it is ‘his job’ to ‘clean up the streets’ of the homeless.
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To do this, he takes his military background and makes his own ‘army,’ the Camden Horizontals. The one difference between this army and any other regular army is that the Camden Horizontals are all dead homeless people, killed by Shelter in cold blood. The book reflects on the hardships the homeless have to face daily, and effectively demonstrates this life by its use of the first-person setting, and the different perspectives of both Shelter and Link.
It shows people at their worst, in the case of Shelter and his perverse thoughts and meticulously calculated and calm way to ‘dispose of’ human life, which he describes as rubbish. It also demonstrates the importance of truth, as at the end of the book, Link is no better off than he used to be, even though he thought he had met ‘someone special. ’ On the whole, I enjoyed the book, and found it interesting and captivating in the way it described Link’s quest to get through life on the streets.
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